When you want to put a lock on the collective mind, you embrace “ideology”. This is a recipe for creating a uniform mind but you have to add a bit of punishment to make it hold. Religion comes in handy because it allows you to punish deviation. In case the state pretends to be democratic, there will always be the “condemned” fringe opinion that the brainwashed nation takes pleasure in abominating. Such a situation now obtains in both India and Pakistan. In Pakistan the “marginalised” wisdom of the “rejected” is contained in a new book, Rethinking Pakistan: A 21st Century Perspective, put together by Bilal Zahoor and Raza Rumi. Some extracts will arouse interest and rage in equal measure.
Tariq Rahman is a linguist and Distinguished National Professor and dean, social sciences at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. He writes: “In India, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (b. 1925), who was then the President of the Islamic Centre in New Delhi, took the lead in refuting radical Islam. Khan expressed his ideas about jihad in many of his publications — The True Jihad, Din aur Shariat, and accessible pamphlets. In his brief monograph, The True Jihad, written in English to disseminate his ideas outside South Asia, he sums up all he has written at various places in Urdu earlier. Beginning with the ideological assumption that all Islam’s wars were defensive, he chooses the most appropriate hermeneutical devices to interpret the canonical texts.” (When Khan visited Pakistan he was booed for having rejected jihad.)
Zohra Yusuf, who served as Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) from 2011-2017 says under the rubric, ‘The Slow Erasure of Ahmadis’: “Through a constitutional amendment in 1974, Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim in Pakistan. Through amendments later brought in by the military government of General Zia ul Haq, they were also barred from identifying themselves as Muslims, reciting or printing the kalma or calling their places of worship ‘masjid’. Since then, Ahmadis have become the most highly-persecuted religious group in Pakistan. From targeting of their congregations to attacks on their graveyards, the Ahmadis have seen the worst of intolerance in Pakistan. The most serious attack took place in May 2010 when Ahmadi mosques in Garhi Shahu and Model Town Lahore were targeted, killing 86 people and injuring over 120.”
Afiya S Zia, a feminist researcher with a doctoral degree in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto, delivers this remarkable gem: “Just like secular resistance exists in different political forms across the country and challenges the majoritarian Islamic hegemony, so too women’s sexualities and associated freedoms are a direct threat to the Islamic gendered order and its patriarchal base. However, these practices and their associated ideals are considered anathema or snubbed due to religious and/or male anxiety. When women’s sexual expression and secular resistance combine, they become potent weapons of non-conformity.”
Reema Omer, who has an LLM focusing on human rights law at the University of Cambridge, talks of the “disappeared persons” who get thrashed by an unnamed authority and then decide to keep quiet: “Enforced disappearances are reported to the police as ‘missing persons’ cases or as those of abduction, kidnapping or wrongful confinement. A recent report by the International Commission of Jurists says these offences are inadequate classifications… They do not recognise the gravity of the crime, do not provide for commensurate penalties and do not address the need to remedy the harm to families of those disappeared who are not legally considered victims.”
Rafiullah Kakar, a political analyst, focuses on majoritarianism: “With Punjab accounting for 56 per cent of the country’s total population, the centralisation of power only resulted in the ‘Punjabisation’ of Pakistan… The upper house, where all provinces had equal representation, had the potential to balance out Punjab’s majoritarian influence, but this was prevented by the fact that the upper house Senate had lesser powers as compared to the lower house National Assembly.
(The writer is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan)